Tales of Terror
4. The Case of Lady Sannox (continued)
But when Douglas Stone became the favourite all doubts as to
Lord Sannox's knowledge or ignorance were set for ever at rest.
There was no subterfuge about Stone. In his high-handed, impetuous
fashion, he set all caution and discretion at defiance. The
scandal became notorious. A learned body intimated that his name
had been struck from the list of its vice-presidents. Two friends
implored him to consider his professional credit. He cursed them
all three, and spent forty guineas on a bangle to take with him to
the lady. He was at her house every evening, and she drove in his
carriage in the afternoons. There was not an attempt on either
side to conceal their relations; but there came at last a little
incident to interrupt them.
It was a dismal winter's night, very cold and gusty, with the
wind whooping in the chimneys and blustering against the window-
panes. A thin spatter of rain tinkled on the glass with each fresh
sough of the gale, drowning for the instant the dull gurgle and
drip from the eaves. Douglas Stone had finished his dinner, and
sat by his fire in the study, a glass of rich port upon the
malachite table at his elbow. As he raised it to his lips, he held
it up against the lamplight, and watched with the eye of a
connoisseur the tiny scales of beeswing which floated in its rich
ruby depths. The fire, as it spurted up, threw fitful lights upon
his bald, clear-cut face, with its widely-opened grey eyes, its
thick and yet firm lips, and the deep, square jaw, which had
something Roman in its strength and its animalism. He smiled from
time to time as he nestled back in his luxurious chair. Indeed, he
had a right to feel well pleased, for, against the advice of six
colleagues, he had performed an operation that day of which only
two cases were on record, and the result had been brilliant beyond
all expectation. No other man in London would have had the daring
to plan, or the skill to execute, such a heroic measure.
But he had promised Lady Sannox to see her that evening and it
was already half-past eight. His hand was outstretched to the bell
to order the carriage when he heard the dull thud of the knocker.
An instant later there was the shuffling of feet in the hall, and
the sharp closing of a door.